Let me start by saying on behalf of the Board, I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter and continued to keep safe and well. Thank you all for your continued understanding and cooperation as we adhere to government restrictions surrounding COVID-19, which led to the suspension of public and volunteer activities across THNSW.
It has been just over a month since we started social distancing and adjusting to new routines as a result of COVID-19. Given the changing and uncertain environment, the Board held a short ‘special’ Board meeting on Tuesday 28 April, its third meeting for the calendar year 2020. As a ‘special’ meeting, the agenda was shorter than normal, although somehow the meeting still went to the usual time. Our Board meeting was held for the first time by video conference.
The Board received an update from our CEO, Andrew Moritz, on behalf of the senior management team as to the ongoing situation, its impacts and consequences for THNSW. All public-facing activities at the NSW Rail Museum, Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum remain suspended until further notice. Following government guidelines, volunteer activities remain suspended and all staff who can work from home are working from home. Only those staff who need to perform their duties at the workplace continue to do so, however under strict workplace rules. Everyone needs to ensure they follow all health and safety guidelines.
Regular communications are more critical than ever during this time. Members will have by now received a bumper 52-page edition of Roundhouse. On behalf of the Board, I thank everyone who has contributed to producing this edition.
Throughout May, you can expect to see more digital content for the benefit of all our audiences: customers, members, volunteers and the broader interested public. Make sure you watch out for eNews, follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, or check in on the THNSW website from time to time.
Last week, THNSW joined in supporting R U OK Day and took the opportunity to launch a new closed Facebook group to help our own THNSW volunteers keep in touch. The Board supports this initiative and encourages all volunteers to join. This will be an excellent new way for our active volunteers to easily keep in touch with each other and THNSW during this time. If you are a registered/active THNSW volunteer, you can join the group by visiting: www.facebook.com/groups/THNSWvolunteers.
The Board considered the impact for the remainder of this financial year, including visitor numbers to our museums and passenger numbers on our heritage trains. At this time, we should not expect that we will be able to reopen our museums or recommence train operations before the end of June. However, should restrictions be lifted in a way which permits us to recommence specific operations and/or reopen our museums, even if in a reduced capacity, then we will consider doing so. The safety of our customers, volunteers and staff remains our highest priority.
The Board, CEO and senior management are taking actions to secure any financial assistance we may be eligible for under the various government stimulus and support packages. Tightly controlled expenditures will ensure THNSW remains sustainable and bounces back strongly. As I said last month, it’s times like these we remain grateful for our funding agreement with the NSW Government, which ensures a stable baseline for THNSW, as well as providing support for the ongoing care, preservation of and investment in selected assets in the heritage transport sector more broadly throughout NSW.
The Board was briefed on the survey conducted within the wider heritage transport sector which highlights the combined impacts of the recent drought, fires, floods and now the coronavirus and the enormous negative impact across our sector here in NSW.
Consideration is being given as to how best THNSW can assist and support groups to care for their collections. Any groups requiring support and assistance are encouraged to contact our Sector Development Officer, Margot Stuart, or Heritage & Collections Manager, Jennifer Edmonds, to discuss their needs and see where we may be able to assist.
Updated Board Charter
The Board adopted a revised and refreshed Board Charter. The Board Charter is an important governance document. It provides guidance on the formalities of the nature of the relationship and responsibilities and expectations of both the Board individual Directors and management.
The refreshed Board Charter is now available on the THNSW website here.
Loop Line upgrade funding
Following the formal advice last month of funding being available for this project the Board noted tenders are currently being called for the following works:
design works for motorising the points at Picton; and
conducting the engineering feasibility and determining a cost estimate for the proposed upgrade works required from Buxton to Colo Vale.
Thank you to those members who have contributed already to these projects from home. Tenders will close in May, and we hope to award contracts soon after so that work can commence as soon as possible.
Heritage Hub at Chullora
The Board was updated on progress with the Heritage Hub. Tenders will shortly be called for architectural services to prepare the detailed scope of work for Stage 1 upgrading of the Tank Annex for rolling stock storage. Work is also progressing on the planned movement of four items of rolling stock from Broadmeadow and two items of rolling stock from the Paint Shop at North Eveleigh which will be used as the test cases for the relocation of all rolling stock out of these locations.
The AGM remains scheduled for Saturday 28 November 2020 in Sydney at this time; however this may need to change if restrictions on public gatherings remain in place. The Board has also asked the Company Secretary, CEO and Management to investigate options for holding a virtual AGM.
The Board considered a proposal for membership fees for the next financial year. More details on this will follow soon.
As at the end of the March quarter, we surpassed 1,750 members, and as we come to the end of April, we have some 1,763 current members.
Stay safe, well and reach out to each other
As I said last time, this is an exceptional time and requires us all to adapt. I’ve downloaded the CovidSafe app – have you? I know for many of our members and volunteers one of the most enjoyable elements of being a member and/or volunteer with THNSW is the opportunity to get together with friends and colleagues who share a common interest in heritage transport. Whilst we may not be able to gather face to face, shake hands, or see and talk with each other at one of our many events, please find the time to connect with your THNSW friends and colleagues through other means and make sure we are all OK.
As I mentioned above, last week saw R U OK Day held on Thursday 30 April. We don’t need to wait for a special day to ask a friend or colleague if they are OK and really listen to what they have to say. Pick up the phone and make a call. If we reach out and support each other, we will all get through this crisis together.